Feature Alumna of the Month: Ninj-Erdene Khurel

Ms. Ninj-Erdene (Ninj) Khurel, a 2008-2009 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant and 2011-2012 Fulbright Foreign Student, and Co-founder and Program Director of the Academia Institute

Ninj-Erdene’s parents wanted her to study medicine and become a doctor, but she had other plans. “Because I loved English since childhood, I went and took entrance examination for English Language Teacher degree at the Universities of Humanities against their will” shared Ninj. During her undergraduate studies, she taught Thai students and discovered that not only did she love English, but she also loved teaching it to others.

After leaving the university, Ninj looked for ways to challenge and improve her teaching. She applied to become a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) in 2007 and spent a year teaching Mongolian to American students at the University of Pittsburgh. She then returned home and brought the modern teaching method she learned as an FLTA to her Mongolian classrooms.

In 2013, Ninj served as the Vice President of the English Language Teachers’ Association of Mongolia (ELTAM). “My passion project is to give back, specially give back in my professional community. Which is why I volunteered to serve at the ELTAM and it in return helped me to get connected with more professionals and further specialize in my field,” said Ninj.

Ninj has continued to specialize in her field as well as give back to her community. Her FLTA experience convinced her to earn a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) graduate degree as a Fulbright (Foreign) Student at the State University of New York in Albany. As a Fulbright alum, she also co-founded Academia English Language Institute and served on the board of the Mongolian Association of State Alumni for two terms in 2013-2017.

After more than a decade of experience, Ninj firmly believes that teachers have a long-term impact on their students’ lives, which drives her to be a better teacher and teacher trainer. She recently joined another Fulbright Student alum, Ms. Khongorzul Bat-Ireedui, as the Foreign Language Program Manager at the Selbe School and Kindergarten Complex project. “Teacher development is crucial,” Ninj shared. She also believes they should be actively involved “in drafting the national standards for teaching English language as a part of the national core curriculum of the secondary education.”

With her record of academic excellence and professional achievements, Ninj is doing her part to develop English teaching in Mongolia. In 2019, she was recognized by the TESOL International Association for her work and contribution to TESOL and English teaching in underrepresented communities with a highly competitive TESOL International Leadership Award. A two-time Fulbright alumna, Ninj continues to make meaningful contributions to our communities and our world.